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Ban on Coaching Centres: One More Step Towards Alienation of Kashmiris

Sagrika Kissu |
The decision was taken during a meeting, where measures to handle the protests by students outside their schools were discussed.
Ban on Coaching Centres

Image Courtesy: Kashmir Life

The Jammu and Kashmir government on Sunday ordered closure of private coaching institutions for students across the valley for three months. The decision was reportedly taken to end the recurrent and relentless protests by students over the Kathua rape and murder case, which according to the state government, had hampered the academic session in the valley.

“We find private coaching centres a distraction for both students and teachers. These will remain closed for next 90 days. I appeal to parents to spend time with the children and apprise them that the Kathua case is before the court now. The case has put emotional stress on the students and they need parents’ counselling,” said J&K Education Minister Altaf Bukhari in Srinagar.

Bukhari announced the decision at a meeting with chief education officers and principals of higher secondary schools, where measures to handle the series of protests by students outside their schools were discussed. The school principals had also put forth their complaint that families of the children invest huge amount of money in the private institutions, and give preference to the private coaching centres over schools.

“We were discussing distractions of students and as per the feedback received, tuition centers are one of the distractions, so, we decided to close them for 90 days. The decision will be reviewed on fortnightly basis,” Bukhari said, while adding that if students hit the streets again, they will be treated as “rowdies”.

In the meeting, the principals of various institutions told Bukhari that clashes are a result of the police interference in peaceful students’ protests. It was also underlined that students do not protest during college or school hours, but at the time, when they leave for home.

One principal was quoted by the local daily of Kashmir: “I have had the worst experience last year when policemen crashed into the campus. They tried to fire teargas canisters on protesting students inside the campus and also heckled me, when I tried to stop them from entering the campus.”

The decision seems absurd, as it does not explain how shutting down of the private institutions will help in the smooth working of the education system.

Meanwhile, the decision by the state education minister has elicited bitter response from the people in the valley, who think that the ban on coaching institutions is “barbaric” as it will cripple the career of the students. Few locals have said that the ban will further create isolation and frustration among the students and might affect the students psychologically.

Sources reveal that the development has brought many middlemen into the picture, who have started persuading the heads of coaching centres by offering them a deal. Since April 22, the middlemen have been lobbying for the reopening of the centres in exchange for ‘nazrana (bribe)’.

Conservative estimates suggest that at least 50,000 students in Kashmir attend coaching centers and an average of Rs 50,000 is paid by the families of these students, bringing the total amount spent to about Rs 250 crores. The coaching centres act as an alternative for the students, where they are trained to prepare for competitive examinations. The estimated amount of Rs 250 crores doesn’t come from the government, but is paid by the parents who are willing to invest for education of their children.

It should be noted that this is not the first time that the students are protesting outside the schools and colleges. The students in the valley have always faced repercussions of the hostile situation in the state including, during the month-long curfews.

In the recent past, the biggest casualty suffered by the education sector in Kashmir was after the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani. During the six-month-long unrest that followed, at least 19 schools were torched, out of which 17 were state-run. The remaining two were privately owned. It was reported that schools remained shut for more than four months, affecting the education of as many as 5,000 students in the valley.

Even though the school remained shut until July 2017, the annual examinations were not postponed. Scores of students had protested asking for the delay in the examination as more than 50 per cent of their syllabus remained uncovered.

The aftermath of the killing of Burhan is only one such incident that jeopardised students’ academic year in the valley. However, curfews are not at all uncommon in the valley – taking place every two months – affecting the education of thousands of students. Has the education minister thought of any remedy on that?

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